On donor money and Malawi District Commissioners

It felt absolutely bizarre when President Joyce Banda recently proclaimed on a political podium during a Safe Motherhood assignment in Ntcheu that donors expect her government to use to the maximum every single donated penny or else they shall need some returned for ‘failing to finish it!’ it sounded as if the money is there simply to be ‘finished.’ Alas! With this creeping socio-economic misery, would there really be some change left? Which public servant in this era of massive invoice and receipt fabrication would surely let go what they have already budgeted for in their personal poverty eradication campaigns? Wouldn’t the donors even receive bogus reports with refund invoices attached purporting that personal funds were used?

Earnestly, this country has a lot of work which even requires more money than that donated every year. In fact, the statement ‘failed to finish the money’ was a new entry in the dictionary of the poor. It was simply inappropriate for President Banda to openly make such a statement, particularly if one considers a typical villager who sternly and blindly believes that Government does not generate enough money. She was supposed to know that uttering such words was like passing the gourd of water in the face of the thirsty. She was surely supposed to remember that people have painfully lived without regular and sufficient provision of basic services.

For example, have people in urban areas parted with water scarcity problems? Wasn’t Mpira Dam, which, now for multiple consecutive weeks, continues to disappoint residents of Mwanza, Neno, Ntcheu, Balaka, and Machinga districts, just a few kilometers from where she was addressing her rally?

Chief Kwataine introducing other chiefs to President Banda in Ntcheu

Instead of ‘eating’ the money to finish for the sake of it, wouldn’t it be reasonable to construct backup or even additional water dams on hill tops along Lake Malawi to supply water to all those more than 10 lakeshore districts? With the evident freshness of the waters and the extensiveness of hills and mountains along the lake, would it really require a patriotic Professor in Water or Civil engineering to reveal the idea and come up with a master plan? Who would lie that this would be a costly project, especially with willing donors around? Must everybody believe that every country has a Shire river for electricity generation, for example? Isn’t Nsanje World Inland Port a vivid example that anything is possible?

During the same rally, every patriotic Malawian, arguably, envied Chief Kwataine not really because he was elevated to Senior Chieftaincy or that he was publicly delegated to London for national duties, but because of his significant engagements in Safe Motherhood programs. One can pertinently contend that President Banda was simply making a political praise of her beloved chief because, apart from his Ntcheu area, he has done nothing for mothers in Balaka, Dedza, Mwanza, Lilongwe, Nsanje, Zomba etc . However, it is because of the elevated Senior Chief’s concentration in his home area that his Safe Motherhood initiative efforts have actually shown a real impact. He executed his Safe Motherhood duties in the same way a dog would viciously bark at its own backyard.

In the same way, wouldn’t there be relevance if District Commissioners governed home districts? Would, for example, a Ntchisi born Commissioner selflessly govern a ‘foreign’ district? How would they feel, for example, if they lay a foundation stone of a school in Nsanje while their siblings and beloved home village children learn under shadeless trees?

It would be meaningful if DCs sought popular mandate through local elections. The present DCs are mere technocrats who lack shared understanding with the common people. After all, a voted into District Commissioner would have a fixed term of office and may not be transferred to another district at the peak of development projects.

Moreover, the majority of them are transferred following a regrettable performance. Which district would voluntarily welcome a crook or a confusionist? Who said that all prophets are not welcome in their home place?

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